In casual conversation I often hear people refer to the Law of Averages. The concept suggests that peaks and valleys flatten out over time. For instance, if a friend is having a lot of luck with his rod and reel, he or she will soon suffer a few "water hauls" to even things out. Lots of folks subscribe to this theory. One must be careful when relying on averaged data, or as I call it The Flaw of Averages. February is a great month to illustrate the dangers on factoring too much math into your game plans.
With the exception of family birthdays, February is a miserable month for me. Biting cold fronts rake across Texas, making outdoor activities unpleasant on most days. I spend the majority of the month huddled inside, sulking and longing for a change in the seasons. I really dislike February. The average temperature in Dallas is 41 degrees F while in Houston the average is 49 degrees F.
When you break down the month on a daily basis you see significant variances between the hottest and coldest days, but throw all the temperatures all into a mathematical formula and the output is in the 40 degree range.
The water temperatures can be just as deceiving. If you look online, you can find the water temperature of practically all of our major reservoirs and bays. While water temperatures are measured with scientific grade thermometers, there is usually one, or perhaps a handful of official measurement points for a reservoir. You can glean additional data from your favorite marina or guides website but, in reality, we base some of our decisions based on deceptive data.
Every lake and bay is different and water temperatures vary on any given day, sometimes greatly. There are a multitude of factors that cause water temperatures to vary, including; water depth, sunlight, cloud cover, wind, current, rainfall, aquatic springs, bottom coloration, turbidity, aquatic vegetation, wave action, bridge pilings, and rocky shorelines.
Fish are cold blooded creatures and will seek out the warmest water available. Kayak anglers, due to their limited range, should be keenly aware of this and seek out launch spots which are closest to areas holding the warmest water. Although a 2-degree difference doesnt sound like much, it is significant to black bass and speckled trout, not to mention the baitfish they feed on.
In lakes and reservoirs, sunny, protected shorelines will hold the warmest water. The longer the sun shines the better, and afternoon fishing is more productive, not to mention more comfortable.
In our bays, shin-deep water warms up quickly under bluebird skies after a passing front. Look for apex predators to slide up into the shallows to enjoy the warm water. Trout and redfish also seek out dark, muddy bottoms, which soak up the suns rays rather than reflect them, as a bright sand bottom does. When you land a wintertime speckled trout and they have a red and raw belly, you can bet they were nestled down in the mud just like it was a down comforter.
The best way to consistently find fish during the winter months is to locate the warmest water but most fishermen I know, including some pretty well known anglers, dont have a water temperature gauge. Every serious winter fisherman should have a way to gauge the water temperature where they are fishing, be it a thermometer or integrated temperature probe for their depth finder.
If you are a minimalist kayaker, a quick-read digital thermometer can be tucked in a shirt pocket and will only set you back 15 bucks. If you can buy an optional temperature probe for your depth finder, make the investment. Keep in mind that fish will seek out the coolest water during our brutal summers.
Once you start sampling water temperatures it becomes ingrained in your system. Catch a fish, mark the water temperature. I keep an eye on the temperature as I paddle down a shoreline to see if there are any variations. I enter interesting anomalies in my log to help me identify patterns for next season. Conversely, I also note the coldest water temperatures and will check these spots out during the summer to see if they are still the coldest. Since my range is limited to the number of paddle strokes I am willing to expend rather than the horsepower on my transom, measured water temperature helps me put together the best game plan I can.
Water temperatures vary greatly in bodies of water. Find the warmest water to fish this month and you will significantly improve your chances of catching. Dont rely strictly on the reported water temperatures or you may succumb to the Flaw of Averages.